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Stam emerging as warrior in United crusade

For Manchester United on Wednesday night the nought was as important as the crosses. The further United progress in the Champions League the more crucial will the efficiency of their defenders become.

United’s 2-0 defeat of Internazionale at Old Trafford in the opening leg of their Champions League quarter-final has given Alex Ferguson’s team a wonderful chance of reaching the last four for the second time in three $47 nwt kay celine nude lace mesh evening party cocktail dress $1900 celine drape front cap sleeve wrap crepe tunic size s seasons. A late goal for Inter celine replica bag look for less , when Peter Schmeichel was 0 celine bag 17610 3xvh 01bcx making stretching saves and Henning Berg clearing the ball off the line, and the tie would be more delicately poised.

As it is, United will surely need to reproduce in the San Siro the quality of defending which for large parts of Wednesday’s match reiterated the importance of Ronaldo to Inter’s attack. The continued absence of the Brazilian because of a knee injury deprived them of the sort of pace up front which would have made the evening rather $1900 celine drape front cap sleeve wrap crepe tunic blouse mini dress 36 less comfortable for Jaap Stam and the rest of the United defence.

That said, Stam’s consistency at centre-back is increasingly underwriting United’s successes both at home and abroad. While hardly a steal from PSV Eindhoven last summer at £10.75 million, the Dutchman has allayed early doubts about lack of pace and vulnerability in the air to emerge as the commanding figure in Ferguson’s back four.

Foreign defenders often need time to adapt to the greater intensity of English football. Now that Stam is acclimatised, his powers of anticipation, his strength in the 0 celine bag 30 cm to inches $47 nwt kay celine nude lace mesh evening party cocktail dress size s tackle and his imaginative use of the ball have given United’s play an added dimension.

Stam, like Bobby Moore, can be taken on for speed by quicker opponents but shares the former England captain’s knack of avoiding the sort of situations where he might be beaten on the turn.

Stam’s quality will again be needed in Milan if United are to beat Italian opposition over two legs for the first time in European competition. Without wishing to detract from United’s performance, there is no denying that Inter defended with an ineptness rarely associated with the upper reaches of Italian football. The centres from David Beckham which reached the alert head of Dwight Yorke in the sixth and 45th minutes confirmed Beckham’s status as one of the best crossers of the ball in the modern game but Yorke’s task was made easier by the absence of challenges from Inter’s central defenders.

In the return leg United will be looking to Roy Keane and probably Nicky Butt to break up Inter’s movements before they develop the sort of flow which would leave the defence at the mercy of Roberto Baggio’s cleverly flighted, shrewdly angled passes and the ability of Youri Djorkaeff and Diego Simeone to beat the offside trap. The way Rivaldo exploited gaps in Ferguson’s midfield when United shared a 3-3 draw in Barcelona last November should not be forgotten.

That was the night Schmeichel combined some outstanding reflex saves with an uncharacteristic sluggishness in leaving his $1600 new celine brown distressed leather satchel boston tote bag handbag purse $1k iconic nib celine $4850 celine runway sleeveless alpaca hooded coat fr34 bam bam sandals nude 37 us 7 goalline and getting off the ground. Against Inter the speed of reaction $50 cheap celine slippers for women which saw the United goalkeeper stick out a hand to block a close-range diving header from Zamorano suggested that Schmeichel was himself again, although he seldom had to deal with the sort of crosses and set-pieces which had found him wanting at Nou Camp.

At this stage talk of United winning the European Cup a second time is beguiling but irrelevant. Had Ryan Giggs not put a free header wide and goalbound shots from Andy Cole not been saved by Gianluca Pagliuca and blocked by Aron Winter they might well have repeated the 4-0 victory over Porto in 1997 which produced a euphoria eventually dispelled by Borussia Dortmund in the semi-finals. This time everyone will be a little wiser.

Thirty-four years ago Liverpool took a 3-1 lead over Inter in the European Cup semi-finals to the San Siro and were beaten 3-0 amid dark accusations of bribery and corruption.

The present United team are more experienced in the ways of Europe than that Liverpool side but will need to keep their wits about them all the same.

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